Curator Gabriella Cetrulo put together some supernatural collections inspired by TV cult-fave, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
“I wanna date and shop and hang out and go to school and save the world from unspeakable demons. You know, I wanna do girly stuff.” – Buffy Summers
Adolescence can be terrifying, and nothing conveyed that feeling quite like a supernatural dramedy about teens battling both growing pains and the forces of darkness. Buffy the Vampire Slayer seamlessly spanned genres as a reluctant demon hunter and her fiercely loyal friends helped each other literally survive high school.
During some fairly tough formative years, I turned to this seemingly campy series for consolation. I scraped through high school, feeling like an outsider. And like everyone else, I strangely believed I was the only one facing this dilemma – until Buffy Summers somersaulted her way onto my TV screen. Here was a seemingly ordinary girl facing ordinary struggles by day, but secretly saving the world by night. As her own mother put it, “Everything is life or death when you’re a 16-year-old girl” and Buffy repeatedly proved she was up for the challenge. While most stories portrayed young women as passive prey, Buffy was an ex-cheerleader who ate predators for breakfast and then went to class.
From the moment the show aired, pertinent issues were battled under various ghoulish guises. A vampire was never really just a vampire and a monster was usually some emotional struggle wearing a monster suit. So each time I watched Buffy fight her demons, it felt like she was also fighting mine.
This series taught me that one person can impact the world, and that what is good or bad isn’t always clear. Sometimes werewolves are kind, witches are healers, and vampires have souls.
In honor of a series that resonates as strongly as the day it debuted 20 years ago, here are five collections inspired by my favorite members of the Scooby Gang.
What cemented Buffy as a feminist icon wasn’t simply that she was superhero or a strong female lead, but that she was a fully formed human being with both strength and vulnerability – someone whom we could all relate to. She wasn’t Sunnydale High’s valedictorian or some Xena-esque Amazon woman. She was a relatively normal, albeit super stylish and witty, high school girl. She may have been the “Chosen One”, but she was also a young woman who was trying her best to fit in and couldn’t seem to get it right. And yet it was her more extraordinary qualities that kept her from the crowd. And isn’t that often the way it goes?
It wasn’t until after high school that she owned what made her different and embraced her calling. Until then, she just wanted to be a girl in the world. But her destiny wouldn’t let her settle for that. As her epitaph pointed out, “She saved the world. A lot.”
It took an embarrassing number of years before I understood why Joss Whedon named Buffy’s first love and unofficial guardian, Angel. Though Buffy was more than capable of defending herself, Angel was often hovering nearby in case she might need backup. He may have spent several generations as a ruthless villain, but his quest for redemption and unwavering devotion to the slayer proved that vampires don’t always suck.
For better or worse, Buffy’s complicated relationship with the brooding 200-year-old vampire formed what would become my blueprint for romantic love. Because their romance demonstrated what unconditional love could look like. But it also confronted a very harsh reality – that, sometimes, love just isn’t enough.
Without a doubt, Willow underwent one of the biggest transformations of any character on the show. When we first met her, she was a meek brainiac with a hopeless crush on her best friend, Xander. By the time the series came to a close, she was a sexually awakened wicca who was nearly as powerful as the slayer herself – some would argue she was even more powerful.
Not only that, but she became an LGBTQ icon when she entered a relationship with a fellow wicca, symbolically coinciding with Willow’s growth into her personal and supernatural power.
Xander seemed to be the most overlooked member of the Scooby Gang, though he was arguably the most likeable. His steadfast support and self-deprecating humor made him a necessity among his friends. And his willingness to face the perils of the Hellmouth despite his lack of supernatural abilities made him a crucial member of the team.
And let’s face it; Xander Harris was actually the most crush-worthy male on the show (nine out of ten she-demons agreed).
Giles was the bookish Englishman we all wish we could have had as a mentor. Not only did he help Buffy navigate her higher calling, but he stood by and guided her through the horrors of growing up. In the absence of a biological father, who was worse than dead – he seemed to be voluntarily absent due to massive indifference – Giles stood in and gave Buffy the support and guidance she deserved. The librarian-turned-magic shop owner eventually lost his “Watcher” title because of his fatherly love for the slayer, but that didn’t stop him from being a father.